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Vertical Targeting Series: Tips to Influence The Travel Planning Journey

The purchase path of today’s leisure traveller has become increasingly complex in the modern age. Multi-device usage and media habits continue to evolve, impacting travel content consumption and booking behaviour. Consumers have more options than ever before, and this has created a complex research and purchase path—U.S. bookers visit travel sites on average 140 times in the 45 days before booking. To engage today’s traveller, marketing needs to be dynamic with personalized ads that map to how the customer is planning their trip.

Programmatic advertising is the perfect medium to efficiently influence a traveller’s decisions. This installment in our Vertical Targeting Series will help you understand the campaign targeting tactics and ad formats to leverage in order to reach and achieve your travel marketing objectives. 

Four Targeting Tactics to Help You Fly High 

Programmatic buying isn’t just efficient—it leads to more sophisticated and targeted campaigns. We’ve compiled a list of 4 targeting tactics, gathered both from the industry and campaigns run on our platform, to help you reach the right audience.

1. Seasonal Targeting

Campaign timing is important due to the seasonal nature of travel bookings and fluctuating demand based on events like festivals, sports competitions, and school holidays. The majority of Americans book trips 1 to 3 months in advance, so catching their attention during this period is key.

Travel peaks also differ by location. For example, early April is the peak season for viewing Japan’s cherry blossoms, while the U.S. travel high season is June through August. Based on data from campaigns in StackAdapt, digital ad spend, site visits and engagement are highest from May to July.

This is likely because advertisers target travellers before and during the U.S. summer high season, with June being the most popular month. 

Your campaign objectives will also impact timing. Your objective could be to advertise ahead of the peak season and take advantage of existing travel intent to increase sales. Or it could be to build awareness of off-season travel ideas, such as visiting a ski town in the summer at a more affordable rate. If you want to stand out from the crowd, exploit opportunities when there is less advertising noise, to amplify your message rather than subjecting yourself to a media collision. For example, our analysts discovered that travel campaigns running in August experience the least competition. Marketers could plan a campaign in August to promote travel ideas for fall destinations and use this time of year to their advantage.

To determine seasonal campaign timing, look to industry and historical data to zero in on the times that have worked best (and worst). The benefit of programmatic advertising is that you can continually optimize to find the campaign timing that works for you, ensuring every ad dollar delivers the most value. 

2. Travel Intent Targeting

Intent-based targeting is a more granular form of targeting that allows you to identify individuals showing interest in travel. Custom audience segments use machine learning to target individuals looking for flights/hotels/activities to and from your destination, based on the content they are consuming. You can also identify individuals engaging with related content such as a neighbouring city, content about a competitor’s brand, product reviews, or similar events.

Across all travel campaigns in StackAdapt, the average click-through rate for campaigns using Custom Segments was 0.4%, while for campaigns using general techniques (such as whitelists) it was 0.27%. As well, the cost per engagement for Custom Segments was 11% lower than using general 3rd-party audiences. Overall, leveraging intent-based targeting can help you optimize ad spend and drive more qualified traffic.

3. Route Targeting

Travellers engage when they see ads showing relevant routes to exciting destinations. Include creative messages that acknowledge their location or distance to reach your destination. In addition, when you know a potential traveller’s location, you can show an ad with the most convenient departure location to impact engagement and conversion rates. For example, you can advertise flights to Las Vegas from 2 different locations, highlighting where the user is coming from.

Both ads are for the same flight aggregator site, but the messaging and creatives are different based on geography. This can be built easily into a single campaign using StackAdapt’s Creative Tactics feature, which allows you to set a parameter to relay relevant information based on geography.

4. Targeting with Private Marketplace Deals

After search and social, Private Marketplace Deals (PMP) are among the most popular digital ad choices for global travel marketers. A survey by comScore found that online travel agencies are the most influential online resource in bookers’ destination decisions. A PMP deal to have your ads appear on a bundling site like Expedia can help your brand connect with consumers as they start mapping out their trip.

Leverage your DSP’s deal packages to capture vertical-specific inventory most suited to your brand or campaign. If there is inventory you can’t find in a pre-packaged deal, the StackAdapt Partnerships team can also help you facilitate a custom deal to meet your needs. Whether your goal is to snag that above-the-fold placement or ensure an exact audience match with a curated list of travel publishers—PMPs can help you get there.

Three Ad Formats to Tell Your Travel Story

Programmatic allows you to connect with travellers using a multi-channel approach that spans video, native, and display ad placements.

1. Bring Travel to Life with Video

Travellers increasingly consume information through online videos, and marketers are taking note. Audiences are more likely to spend a longer time on a travel site after viewing a video ad. Our analysts discovered that travel campaigns leveraging video ads demonstrated a completion rate of 81% and a 1.6 minute time on site. This format is a great way to showcase your experiences through immersive visual storytelling.

Different video lengths will suit different campaign objectives. On our platform, 6-second ads show the highest completion rate at 88%. While 31- to 60-second ads experience high click-through rates at 0.70%.

2. Influence with Native Advertising

Native ads do a great job of leading audiences to informative, inspiring content, which makes them ideally suited to the travel vertical. They are the perfect non-intrusive format that allows for the organic integration of travel-related stories into the user experience. In fact, 78% of travel campaigns in StackAdapt leverage native. And 72% of travel media spend at the top of the funnel is allocated to native.

Take Porter Airlines, which used native ads to drive audiences to re:view, their lifestyle blog. The goal was to use the new blog to increase flight bookings while simultaneously driving engaged visitors to their content. Porter was able to beat their cost per acquisition target by 35%, outperforming other paid channels like search and social.

3. Collect Data with Interactive Display Ads

While our research has shown that travel campaigns run through StackAdapt have the best results when using native and video, you should not discount display—especially when you can make your display ads interactive. If you would like to learn more about your target market and focus on conversions, then an interactive display ad can help collect valuable data about your ideal customer. For example, you can ask the user what the weather is like where they are, encouraging them to interact with the ad they’ve seen. This helps to discover what type of vacation they might prefer.

Even if the viewer clicks all the weather options, you will be able to gauge interest in certain locations based on the conversion events. This example would be ideal to include in a retargeting campaign, once the target market is familiar with your brand.

Travel Marketing Takes Off with Programmatic

Programmatic advertising is a highly effective way to reach your target demographic throughout their travel buying journey. Understanding the targeting tactics and ad formats to leverage can help you attract more customers and ultimately drive direct bookings.

Reach out to your StackAdapt Representative to learn more about how to run your travel campaigns and to get a copy of StackAdapt’s Guide to Vertical Targeting.

In case you missed it, this is just one part of our Vertical Targeting Series. Check out our Intro to Vertical Targeting post.

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